Giant ‘White Wanderer’ Iceberg Poised To Break Free From Antarctica

Mario TamaGetty Images

Climate change is already having a major impact on the world. Sea levels have begun to rise, the weather has become more extreme, and plants and animals have been feeling the impact. One of the most notable places where these effects are felt is all the way at the bottom of the globe in Antarctica.

Normally covered in ice and shedding icebergs into the Southern Ocean, the Antarctic continent has begun breaking apart as the sea and atmospheric temperatures rise. These icebergs are typically fairly small, breaking apart as they melt and drift in the sea. However, every so often, a massive chunk of frozen water sheers off, posing a threat not only to wildlife but to ships and humans as well.

One such floe is now threatening to break off of the Larsen C Ice Shelf. Clocking in at an astounding 275 cubic miles of ice and with a surface area of more than 2,500 square miles — larger than the state of Delaware — this behemoth will tower more than 600 feet above the surface of the ocean.

Dubbed the “White Wanderer” by the BBC, this iceberg has already moved five miles since June, when it was eight miles from the edge. Now just three miles away, it could drop into the sea within the next couple of weeks, and scientists are watching it closely.

Ice floe fields like this one are a common sighting along the Antarctic West Coast [Image by Torsten Blackwood/Getty Images]Featured image credit: Torsten BlackwoodGetty Images

The size and mass of the iceberg, impressive though they are, are only part of the story. Following its movement will help researchers further understand how they move and use that knowledge to warn ships and travelers who may cross paths with is.

On a broader scale, the relatively rapid movement of this one over the past few months from inland toward the coast has also taken some observers aback. This rapidity could slow response times when warning ships of the dangers, while its enormous mass will also likely speed up the breaking off of several other icebergs of various size.

Climate change puts more and larger icebergs in the sea
Massive icebergs like this one could pose dangers to ships [Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images]Featured image credit: Mario TamaGetty Images

It all points to a shifting climate as well, and Antarctica has been the focal point of many studies in this area. As the only continent devoid of human life and mostly covered in ice, the effects are much easier to observe. Moreover, as the climate continues to warm, many more chunks are expected to break off, and even larger ones could become a regular feature of the Southern Ocean and beyond.

[Featured Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images]